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The Pyramid of Articulate Communication

2 min read

Being able to communicate with clarity and conciseness is a critical skill to the success of every engineering manager, tech lead, and software architect. A very typical approach to achieve that is by having a lot of deliberate practice.

Ultimately, the goal is to have the ability to express what currently keeps you busy in just 11 seconds (or any number of seconds, the exact number does not matter much) while still packing as much useful content as possible. In many different context, this is called the elevator pitch. Of course, we all wish that this conversation could take place in Burj Khalifa so that we would have minutes, instead of seconds, at our disposal!


Arguably, it is not easy to do that unless you have the slightly longer version practiced again and again. This is equivalent to having a quick hallway conversation, where someone (perhaps your coworker) bumps to you and would like to have a short update of the project you are working on. For this version, aim to spend about just 4 minutes, give or take. Do that a couple of times, with different coworkers, and now you are well equipped to compress it 20x and distill it 11 seconds.

Yet, your project might be rather sophisticated. Perhaps it is not easy to quickly come up with the 4-minute elaboration. Do not despair! All you have to do is to find an unsuspecting victim, another coworker or someone else who could have a swift comprehension of the subject. This time, have the conversation (over lunch or coffee) for about 30 minutes. Make a mental note which sections excite your victim. Likely, pay attention to the ones that potentially trigger an immediate drowsiness. Ask them for some feedback. Do not do this just once or twice. Do it three times or more. After that, crystallize the discussion to conjure the 4-minute version of the explanation.

Turn this into a habit. Pick a subject, whether a complex problem you are trying to solve, a book you are currently reading, a class you are attending, etc. Explain it in 30 minutes. Find another person who is willing to digest the 4-minute version. Finally, always be ready with the elevator pitch variant.

Every morning, imagine that you enter an elevator and bump to an important person, perhaps your CEO, a famous book author, or a well-known practitioner in your field. How will you spend your 11 seconds?

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